LUBBOCK, Texas (AP) -The eye patches will be out Saturday night in honor of Texas Tech coach Mike Leach.
And yet, his No. 6 Red Raiders have a chance to turn their eccentric offensive wizard into something more than a conversation piece who has a penchant for pirates and a law degree.
If Graham Harrell and Co. can knock off top-ranked Texas and Heisman Trophy front-runner Colt McCoy, there will be some serious talk about a national championship in this West Texas city that's probably never hosted a bigger game.
hat's normal, you know. It's a big deal.''
Big enough for a student group to buy 4,000 black eye patches to hand out before the game. Big enough for students to start camping out Monday so they could be in line five days later to get the best of the 12,000 unreserved seats set aside for them.
T Jones Stadium was dubbed, has grown to more than 2,000 people. Leach bought the whole bunch barbecue Thursday night and thanked the students for their support.
Don't expect him to treat this game any differently, though.
``No bigger than the eight that led up to it,'' Leach said Monday in his predictably understated way.
Both undefeated teams (8-0) are guided by their quarterbacks. McCoy has the Longhorns (4-0 Big 12) three-fourths of the way through a brutal stretch in which the lowest-ranked opponent was Missouri when it was 11th. The closest call was last weekend's 28-24 victory against then-No. 6 Oklahoma State.
The point spread in Lubbock is almost the same as the margin of victory against the Cowboys, but the last game in this ``grinder,'' as McCoy called it, has the makings of the toughest because it's the first true road game.
an't focus on. We just have to go out and play every week.''
McCoy is the No. 2 passer in the country with 2,285 yards, 21 touchdowns and an uncanny completion rate of 81 percent. Leach knows quarterbacks better than most because he's had some of the nation's best in nine seasons running the Red Raiders.
McCoy is up there in Leach's eyes, as are the Longhorns - ``one of the best'' teams he's seen over the years. McCoy's development has helped bring that about, Leach said.
``I thought he was good last year but I think he's improved,'' he said. ``He's bigger and stronger looking than he has been in the past, and I think he's faster, too.''
Harrell could improve his shot at the Heisman with a win over Texas. He leads the No. 2 offense in the country and has thrown 28 touchdowns, half to All-American receiver Michael Crabtree.
Now it's Harrell's turn to run a Texas-like gauntlet. The Red Raiders, tied atop the Big 12 South with the Longhorns, set up the Texas showdown with a 63-21 rout of then-No. 19 Kansas. Waiting for them are No. 9 Oklahoma State at home, a bye week and a trip to No. 4 Oklahoma.
Texas defensive tackle Roy Miller offered a blunt illustration of the challenge.
``We're not Kansas,'' he said.
Leach's most recent trip to Austin was pretty unpleasant, too. Upset by two disallowed Texas Tech touchdowns in a crucial third quarter, Leach was fined a record $10,000 by the Big 12 Conference last year for his harsh criticism of game officials after the 59-43 loss.
But Leach brings into this game something he didn't have last year - or most years, really. The nation's leading passing attack (418.4 yards per game) actually has a decent complement in the 64th-best running game (138.5 yards).
The Red Raiders also will have a stadium filled with fans wearing ``Blackout Texas'' T-shirts. They shouldn't be late, because a local television station has been doing a constant on-screen countdown to kickoff.
``They really get after it,'' Texas defensive end Brian Orakpo said of Tech fans. ``They make the opposing team very uncomfortable. But we're used to it. We're Texas. We've been in hostile environments before.''
In fact, the Longhorns have already played the biggest game in the history of a West Texas city once this year. They beat UTEP 42-13 in their first game against the Miners in El Paso.
``They'll be pumped up and that's the atmosphere you want to play in as a college football player, for both teams,'' Texas coach Mack Brown said. ``Both teams have a lot on the line.''

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